Are hotels responsible for protecting employees from harassment?

| Dec 15, 2017 | Insurance Law

The slew of sexual harassment allegations lodged against powerful, high profile men continues on. Last week, Minnesota senator Al Franken resigned from his post amidst such allegations. Celebrity chef Mario Battali was suspended after similar allegations surfaced. Additionally, talk show host Tavis Smiley has been pulled off the air pending an investigation of inappropriate relationships with subordinates.

While the list of high profile men accused appears poised to grow, the public outcry against sexual harassment has not reached the most vulnerable of employees. Hotel housekeepers often are continual victims of sexual harassment because they are low-wage service industry workers that are often marginalized through a number of factors, including language differences, inherent power disparities, physical isolation and over-reliance on customer satisfaction.

In these situations, hotels are under increasing scrutiny to protect their employees from harassment. After all, hotels have a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of harassment and to move quickly to address such complaints by employees. Essentially, the employer must respond regardless of whether the harassment is coming from a customer or another employee.  A recent insurancejournal.com report noted that hotel workers (primarily women) are constantly under siege from unruly patrons (mostly men) and have little to no recourse available.

Because of this, it would not be surprising if an employee brought suit against a hotel owner for sexual harassment even if the harassment has not been perpetuated by another employee. If you are a hospitality venue and one of your employees is considering a lawsuit, it is critical to contact an experienced attorney.